Saturday 25 May 2019

Shay died as a hero trying to save friend at 'death trap we must close'

Jack and Shay together in an Ennis Rugby Club photo
Jack and Shay together in an Ennis Rugby Club photo

Tragic teenager Shay Moloney died a hero while desperately trying to save his friend from drowning in a quarry described as "a death trap".

The local community in Ennis, Co Clare, was today still trying to come to terms with its grief following the shock deaths of talented rugby players Shay and Jack Kenneally, both 15.

The were among a group of youngsters who had been swimming in an abandoned quarry near Knockanean on Thursday, during a day of warm sunshine.

A source close to the family described to the Herald how the disaster unfolded.

"Jack and Shay were in a group of five when they went out to the quarry. At one stage Jack jumped in and started to swim towards a small island but got into difficulty.


"When Shay saw him struggling he went in to help his friend. Jack started panicking and I think they just both ran out of steam."

The source added that a third youth had a lucky escape after diving into the water to help his friends.

"I think the third person went out towards them, but when the boys started to struggle he managed to just back off and get out."

In a tribute online, one of Jack's three sisters, Katie wrote: "I am actually lost for words in this moment. All I can say is you will be forever missed and always loved. You were the most amazing little brother and we are all so, so devastated to say the least. Rest in peace bro we all love you soo soo much."

Katie later wrote: "RIP Jack and Shay - at least ye are together."

Questions are now being raised about the dangers associated with swimming at the Knockanean quarry. In the early 1980s, a young man drowned at the same location.

There are signs at the entrance of the land stating "Danger - Deep Water - No Swimming" and "Danger, silt pond, deep water, keep clear".

However, according to locals they are largely ignored.

A 1.5-metre-high stone wall around the 62-acre site does little to stop anyone wishing to gain access to the swimming blackspot.

Ennis councillor Mary Howard has called for Clare County Council to take immediate action.

"Whether we drain it or fill it up, we have to act now," she said.

"This tragedy isn't going to stop teenagers from swimming in that quarry at all. Even on Thursday after the two boys were removed from the water there were people swimming in it.

"I'm not sure who owns the site, but unless something significant is done to make that quarry safe then I fear we're going to see more deaths."

The local representative is now urging parents to warn their children of the dangers the swimming spot poses.

"It's about 80ft deep and can be extremely cold, even on a day like today. There are never any lifeguards on duty and it constantly poses a risk to our children. It's a death trap," she added.

A spokesperson from Clare County Council told the Herald that the site is private property and the signs were erected by the landowner.

Clare Water Safety development officer Clare McGrath said: "We are urging the public to only use lifeguarded bathing places. We also are reminding the public to take heed of advice given by the lifeguards and to supervise your children at all times."

At the entrance of the site, a sign by property company Sherry FitzGerald indicates that the land is for sale.


Meanwhile, tributes have been pouring in for the two young men.

Ennis Rugby Club paid tribute to the friends in a poignant tweet yesterday.

"Our brothers in arms. Our warriors when the going got tough. Our leaders when the pressure came on. Our pride when they took the field," it read. "Our joy when they lit it up off the field. Our devilment when it all got too serious. Our gentlemen always. Our terrible loss."

Richard Murphy, president of the club, said that Jack and Shay were "the heartbeat" of their successful under-15 squad.

"They were the guys that led from the front, the guys that carried the fight, the guys that made the difference," he said.

"As well as developing into exciting rugby players, both Jack and Shay were developing into fine young men who were a credit to their family and friends.

"As resolute and fearless as they were on the pitch, they were as funny, engaging and inspiring off the pitch. Our club was a better place for having them as part of it and their absence will be keenly felt."

Ennis Community College issued a statement, saying it was "deeply saddened", and has implemented a critical incident management plan at the school.

St Flannan's College, the school of third year student Shay, expressed condolences on social media, saying: "This is a terrible tragedy for both families and friends, our schools and our community. We are deeply saddened by these events.

"Our thoughts are with both Shay's and Jack's families and friends."

The parish priest of Ennis said the entire community was sharing in the devastation of losing two of its members.

Fr Tom Hogan paid a touching tribute to the two young friends, who he believes will "remain forever young".

"Ennis is a very small town and when a tragedy comes to one family everyone feels their pain," he said.

"Jack and Shay have wonderful friends and please God they will see the parents and family through this dreadful time.

"It was the last day of the school year and it was such a beautiful day when this awful incident occurred.

"These two boys were childhood friends and have known each other since primary school. They were very involved in rugby and were certainly a pillar in this community."

Fr Hogan, who met the two families yesterday afternoon, added: "The whole community are just in a state of deep shock and sadness. They'll be forever young in people's memory and minds."

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